Preparing for the surge

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick March 25, 2021 10:24

With golf participation expected to be very high for the coming season, some venues have taken the opportunity of recent lockdowns to fast track major course renovation projects.

Partly because so many golf courses have been closed for so much of the last year, a number of clubs have taken the opportunity to carry out major course enhancement projects.

For example, North Foreland Golf Club (pictured) is preparing for a big year when it reopens after lockdown, with record membership numbers and lots of visitors expected in July with the return of the Open Championship to Kent, by fast-tracking its five-year plan to remodel its bunkers.

North Foreland

Already one of the most highly-regarded seaside golf courses in the country, North Foreland is always striving to improve and enhance the course – and with round numbers expected to be at an all-time high heading into the new golf season post lockdown, the golf club was keen to forge ahead with its 14th and 15th bunker renovations early this year.

The work follows a successful rerouting of the 13th hole last year, creating a dog-leg with fairway bunkering, to make an exceptional run of holes on the back nine.

The par-four 14th hole has had four new bunkers and 100 square metres of new putting surface added to make it a truly standout hole down the finishing stretch. The new bunkers include two additional fairway bunkers to create the look of three bunkers in a line off the tee, but they are actually staggered, as well as two new greenside bunkers – one on the left and one on the right of the green. The team also removed a bunker which was just short of the green and was no longer in play.

North Foreland

Not only have the new changes made drastic visual improvements to the hole, but also bring more drama and challenge. Experienced players will now have the choice of taking on the cross-bunkering with their driver to have a chance of attacking the pin with their second shot, or they can lay up shorter but will have a more demanding second with the new greenside bunkers. It is still more than playable for the average golfer as they should miss the cross bunkers if trying to reach the green in three.

The 15th hole is also a par-four and the changes have been made to create a dramatic hole right in front of the clubhouse – strengthening the strategy needed and improving the aesthetics.

The first fairway bunkers on the left and right-hand side have been filled in and seeded, with a new bunker added to the left-hand side of the fairway at 220 yards from the back tees. The remaining right-hand fairway bunker at 240 yards will be remodelled in the same location, but increase in size with a high sand face visible from the tee. This, along with the new fairway bunker on the left, will help frame the view from the tee.

The lower level of the green has been extended slightly in size which will, in time, create a challenging pin position tucked behind the new left-side greenside bunker. Both greenside bunkers are also being completely remodelled, adding drama and ensuring the sand is visible from the fairway.

Chris Dowrick, who took over as general manager of North Foreland last July, is delighted with the improvements. He said: “This is exactly what the course needed on the back nine and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the club, despite the financial constraints the past year has given us. With the Open Championship returning to Royal St George’s in July – which is just 13 miles along the coast – and the UK golf boom expected to continue in the spring and summer, we’re ready to give our members and visitors playing the course for the first time the very best version of North Foreland and are optimistic about a successful 2021.

North Foreland

“A huge amount of research went into this project from our greenkeeping team to ensure that we kept the course true to the original architects, Fowler and Simpson, and it’s fantastic to see all the hard work pay off.

“We can’t wait for our members to experience the remodelled course – and there’s still more to come as part of our five-year vision!”

Meanwhile, Glasson Golf Course in Ireland, famously designed by Christy O’Connor Jnr, is undergoing major redevelopment as part of an overall transformation of the 175-acre resort and hotel. The newly designed and upgraded course is set to be unveiled in May.

The club is making significant changes to the lower five holes, including a redesign of the par five 14th hole, which will become a 450-yard par-four, played to a new green protected on the left by marshland and on the right by a lake which will be walled with local rock.

The new 15th will measure around 350 yards and play back up the hill through what was a wild area between the 14th and the old 16th. From there you play a par four back down the golf 16th fairway to the new 16th green before taking on the signature, par three 15th across the lake, which will now become the 17th.

Glasson

As for the 18th, the tee will be raised with the green moved left of the existing green, setting up a rousing finish.

Lynn McCool, Glasson’s director of golf, said: “We have recently added 24 new buggies and a significant amount of greenkeeping equipment, but that’s only the start of the investment here.”

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick March 25, 2021 10:24
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